Jenkins, Brunson, lead No. 1 Villanova past Seton Hall 76-46
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Jay Wright went home for a short break between a pregame meal and the latest Villanova game when his wife greeted the championship coach with a breaking news update: The Wildcats were again No. 1.
Yup, just another top billing for the national champs. Ascending to No. 1 for the first time in program history last season, the ranking has become pretty routine at this point for the perennial powerhouse.
”Can you believe we’re at a point where it’s just, `yeah,”’ Wright said.
Ho-hum, the Wildcats are No. 1.
Kris Jenkins scored 16 points and Jalen Brunson added 13 to lead the top-ranked Wildcats to a 76-46 win over Seton Hall on Monday.
The Wildcats (18-1, 6-1 Big East) looked every bit like a team that could win back-to-back national championships in their first game at No. 1 in The AP Top 25 poll following a one-week hiatus.
Villanova fell from the top spot to third in the poll following a Jan. 4 loss at Butler. But wins over Marquette and Xavier vaulted the Wildcats over the Kansas Jayhawks and back into the top spot.
”It’s just a number,” Jenkins said.
Led by four 3s from Jenkins, the Wildcats set a school record 47 straight wins at the Pavilion. Under Wright, Villanova has been nearly unbeatable at home for most of the last 10 years.
Seton Hall (12-6, 2-4) was just the latest to go down in front of the 177th straight sellout crowd. Villanova’s rare blemish on its national championship season was losing to the Pirates in the Big East Tournament title game.
The Wildcats took care of this one with ease. Darryl Reynolds threw down a monster dunk and Jenkins followed with a 3-pointer for a 20-7 lead. Brunson hit a 3 and Josh Hart quickly turned a steal into a dunk for a 20-point edge early in the second half. The Wildcats made 12 of 26 3-pointers and held Seton Hall to just 16 field goals.
But look beyond the box score to find what impressed Wright more than building a 36-point lead. The Wildcats were sluggish and played perhaps their worst game of the season – 20 turnovers – in a win last Saturday at St. John’s. Wright gave the Wildcats a day off and just watched film, fully expecting seniors like Jenkins and Hart would instill the message that another letdown was not what has won them three straight Big East championships.
”I hope we’re never going to have a night like that, and when we do I’m kind of surprised because we do take pride in that,” Wright said.
Lesson learned. The Wildcats never gave the Pirates the smallest chances to make this one a game.
”I thought we played really hard tonight and when you do it against Seton Hall, you know you did it,” Wright said.
Seton Hall: Desi Rodriguez scored 15 points. … The Pirates still have more wins over Villanova (3) than any other Big East team since 2013. … Seton Hall has lost 15 straight games at the Pavilion dating to Feb. 26, 1994.
Villanova: The Wildcats won their 1,700th career game (1,700-813). … The Wildcats previous record at the Pavilion was 46 straight from January 2007 to February 2011. The active streak started with a 68-40 win over USF on Feb. 9, 2013. … No. 1, meet No. 1: 76ers’ No. 1 overall draft pick Ben Simmons watched the game from a courtside seat. He has not played this season because of a broken right foot. … The Wildcats received 28 first-place votes and 1,580 points from a 65-member national media panel while the Jayhawks remained No. 2 despite getting more No. 1 votes.
Villanova stuffed display cases from last season with a Big East title, cut-up championship nets and a national championship trophy that was paraded down Philadelphia. But the Pirates denied them the conference tournament title and former Wildcat Daniel Ochefu, now with the Washington Wizards couldn’t forget the stinging defeat. He tweeted , ”Number 1 team in the country boutta spank Seton Hall! We owe them for stealing that trophy from us!!!!”
Reynolds said he’s watched a lot of film lately on Ochefu.
Seton Hall had only a one-day break following a four-point loss at Providence and played its third straight game on the road.
”We need a couple of days of home where we can get some practice, get some rest,” coach Kevin Willard said. ”I didn’t do the schedule but it’s not an easy thing to do. I felt like I was back in the NBA with a third game in six days.”
The Pirates head home to play DePaul on Sunday.
The Wildcats play Providence on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.